Owner of Modern Arks Combines The Minimal and Memorable in Home Design

With thousands of options and tips to organize your home, simplifying your personal design can be done with multipurpose furniture! Jamie Bennett, owner of Modern Arks, is doing just that by refurbishing the old into something eye-catching and timeless. I caught up with the designer on his business journey and the top 5 vinyls in his personal media collection! (Springsteen and Neutral Milk Hotel anyone?!) 

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What's the story behind the name "Modern Arks"?

My furniture is pretty strictly mid-century modern, aesthetically, but I use wood reclaimed from old dilapidated barns being torn down all across the state. So sometimes the wood we get is over 100 years old. So the idea of combining the historic/old with the modern aesthetic is where the name came from. Also I use to be in bands and stuff so I just love coming up with cool names for things. I thought Modern Arks would've been a cool band name too. Haha!

What often catches your eye when you're searching out antique pieces to repurpose?

I don't do so much of the repurposing anymore actually, but when that was a bigger part it was just anything unique. With the old crates it was just anything with big bright colors and great typography.

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What's the most exciting part about the process of designing your products?

Figuring out how things will go together on the front end, in the design phase, before even cutting a piece of wood is extremely satisfying. And it's extremely exciting on those rare occasions when nothing changes after the first prototype build. Haha! That means that I spent enough time on the front end really using my brain and working through the project virtually that I literally figured everything out and solved all the potential problems that could arise! And I must stress that that has been very rare. Lol.

Any advice you can offer to someone looking to turn a hobby into a business?

Prepare to struggle a little. It's not always going to be smooth. And need it. I'm not sure how far I would've gotten with this thing if I hadn't been sort of forced into making it a reality. I lost my job during the economic meltdown in 2009, and now my wife is a stay-at-home mom to two boys and Modern Arks provides for that. So I need it to work. Not saying you have to lose a job or anything that dire, but you can't really half-ass it if you're going to go all in on making it a business.

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Most of your furniture is dual purpose and unique- what element does this add to the modern home?

If I can make it happen it's fun. Just adds a special element, plus people are downsizing a bit so if I can get a little something extra from a piece it's great! Good value and good use of space.

If you could describe your artwork in one word what would it be?

This is a tough one. Things tend to sound very pretentious. There is a uniqueness to the pieces from the finishes I can get from the barn-wood on these modern pieces, but I'm certainly not reinventing the wheel or anything. Hopefully in the end it's just: "Right"

What sparked the Modern Arks Kids Collection?

That literally did start from having a kid and needing some things. Particularly the co-sleeper bassinet that hooks up to the bed. There are very few of those out there and the nice looking ones are very expensive and usually come from Europe. The ones here in the US are either folksy looking or plastic. So yeah, like everything with me it came out of necessity.

What are a few local businesses that you've enjoyed collaborating with or supporting? (in or outside Nashville)

Well, I own a CNC router with Jonathan Malphrus from Steric Design and Ryan Richardson of Data and they've become good friends and both are really great at what they do. And stuff I can't do for sure. Just great work.

Any new projects you're working on?

Currently just trying to catch up. I'm hoping to have time to flesh out some new ideas that I've had in the last year really soon.

Assuming you have a record storage cabinet in your home, name the top 5 vinyls in your collection?

I do, I do. Although not one of my own. It's one from the 60's. So an original mid-century modern media console.

In no particular order:

  • Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen (This one just seems made for vinyl)
  • In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel (Just one of my favorite records period)
  • Gold Soundz, Pavement 7" - Pavement was one of my favorite bands in my late teens/early twenties so when I went to NYC for the first time I found this tiny record shop in a basement and was just stunned at all these great records I didn't even know existed. At the time Nashville was not anywhere near as hip as it is now so there was the Great Escape for buying more obscure music and that's about it. So this particular 7" has a song called "Strings of Nashville" on it and I thought it was so great. And it was red vinyl. I mean, to be 18 and in NYC and find this stuff was mind blowing. Sorry...
  • Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey (Also, just perfect sounding on vinyl)
  • Paul Simon, Paul Simon (Ditto for this one. I guess I like old records on vinyl more than new ones. Sounds more authentic maybe)
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